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Grand Challenges in Biology Postdoctoral Program Accepting Applications

The Grand Challenges in Biology Postdoctoral Program is now accepting applications for the 2019 cohort. Please read the description below for information on the program. For further information or to apply, please visit the University of Minnesota Job Board and search for job ID 327711. 

Understanding and predicting the behavior of complex biological systems requires a framework that can integrate across levels of biological organization, can capture nonlinear feedbacks in dynamical systems, and can incorporate and facilitate mechanistic understanding.  This is the challenge of the future of biology. Meeting this challenge requires a multidisciplinary approach that relies heavily on innovations in quantitative fields such as mathematics, computer science, statistics, and engineering. It also requires strong integration (or re-integration) of molecular biology with organismal biology. Meeting the food, water, and energy needs of a growing human population, while minimizing adverse impacts of habitat alteration, climate change, invasive species, overexploitation, and pollution on human health and ecological systems – operate at scales from molecules to ecosystems, and there is a pressing need to develop the science that can cross these scales. The University of Minnesota is developing research and curricular initiatives focused on addressing grand challenges, and this program is part of CBS’ contribution to the university-wide programs.

Program Aims
The overall aim of the Grand Challenges in Biology (GCB) Postdoctoral Program is to stimulate synergistic interactions between faculty and postdoctoral associates interested in collaborating on multidisciplinary research that addresses societally relevant problems. Postdoctoral projects are for two years (assuming satisfactory progress toward research goals in year one). Postdoctoral associates will be encouraged to participate in grant proposal development workshops and other professional development activities offered at UMN and CBS and are permitted to serve as Principal Investigators on grant proposals. While in residence, the postdoctoral associates will be expected to be visible members of CBS, actively engaging with faculty, undergraduate- and graduate students and contributing to furthering the collaborative culture of CBS.

Application Process
Applicants should develop a 2-year research project under the guidance of two or more faculty advisors, at least one of whom must be a faculty member in the College of Biological Sciences (CBS). The other advisor(s) may not be from the same CBS department as the primary advisor, but may be from a different department within CBS, from any other College at UMN or from a local entity external to the university (e.g., private company, government agency, NGO).  Since an important aim of the program is to jumpstart the formation of new teams, the faculty advisors should not have an already established record of collaboration with each other (as evidenced by jointly authored publications). Applications must include a CV, a 1-page description of previous or current research and a 3 page (maximum) description of proposed research containing: a statement of the problem to be addressed; methods/approach; relevance of the work in relation to grand challenges in biology; contributions of the collaborating partners; literature cited (does not count toward the 3-page limit). In addition, the applicant must provide the CVs and a letter of support from each of the proposed advisors who will be involved in the project, as well as the names and contact information for two external persons (not from UMN) who may be asked to submit letters of recommendation.  The expected salary will be $48,500 plus benefits. In addition, the postdoctoral scholar will receive $5,000 per year for research supplies and research-related travel. It is expected that necessary office and laboratory space, access to large equipment and any other research needs will be provided by faculty advisors.

Application Deadline: 1 February, 2019

Position Start Date: May – August, 2019 (specific date negotiable)

Additional Details:

  • Positions are initially for two years with the possibility of renewal for a third year pending progress review.
  • Early-career scientists with a high potential to springboard their careers to future faculty positions are especially encouraged to apply.
  • Applications will be evaluated by a search committee representing CBS’s disciplines. This same committee, or a subset thereof, will also be responsible for evaluating postdocs’ performance at the end of the first year and in connection with eventual renewal for a third year.
  • Applicants should have completed all of the requirements necessary to attain a Ph.D. degree and be able to be on campus to start employment by the agreed start date.
  • Graduates of UMN are eligible to apply for these positions, but we also hope to recruit a strong pool of external applicants.
  • Faculty are encouraged to actively recruit potential candidates through personal and professional networks.
  • For faculty advisors with joint appointments, their tenure home will count as their official affiliation.
  • As the aims of the program are to jumpstart new collaborations among faculty, enhance diversity of our postdoctoral community, and promote the professional development of young professionals within a few years of attaining their Ph.D. degrees, these criteria will be considered in evaluating applicants, in addition to the usual criteria of scholarly excellence.

Advisors and Co-Advisors Are Expected to:

  • Meet regularly with the Grand Challenges in Biology (GCB) postdocs to support their research program.
  • Review and assess annually the Grand Challenges Individual Development Plan (IDP) and the annual CBS staff evaluation with the GCB postdoc.
  • Attend the annual oral research presentations by the GCB postdocs for assessment of annual progress.
  • Empower (and encourage) GCB postdocs to pursue professional development opportunities offered by the University and CBS.
  • Encourage GCB postdocs to present at scientific meetings, and support them in these endeavors.
  • Support, encourage, and advise GCB postdocs who are applying for research funding.
  • Support GCB postdocs in career progression and job searches.


November, 2018